Down To Business

Down to business. New season. Team. Players. In out. Go.

Something to build on. Tottenham made progress at a remarkable rate last season, both as a team and in terms of the individual players. This is Pochettino’s finest achievement – every one of them were better players in May than they were in August. As for the team, stratospheric improvement.  Some, like Kane and Dembele, made themselves indispensable. Others like Alli grew from boy to man. One, Eric Dier, came from developing centreback to the best English defensive midfielder. And the wonderful thing is, there’s still room to grow. Their potential is thrillingly enticing.

So first priority – make sure these players who the whole of Europe is looking at stay. Alli, Wimmer, Kane and Dier have all signed new contracts. According to the media, Eriksen is not keen on whatever Spurs have offered but my sense is that negotiations continue and it will be sorted.

By April, the first team picked itself, simultaneously sound and fragile. Excellent for team togetherness but it exposed the weakness in the squad – a lack of depth. Without Alli and Dembele we looked a level below our best. My ambition is the same as it has been for several years – I want Spurs to be real contenders, to give every competition a right good go. To do so, we must strengthen. I’ve heard it suggested that we need only a couple. No – we need more. This isn’t a moan, not being negative, it’s reality. Don’t want to break the bank but spending on players is an investment.

Priorities: cover up front and in defensive midfield. Poch knows, and he knew it this time last season. Whatever he said in public, he wanted this done a year ago. An injury to Kane would have destroyed our season. Dier I have heard suggested from a London based journalist that the switch to DM was out of necessity not desire and no one expected him to be that good. Who knows?

 

A People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club by Martin Cloake and me is the story of the fans from 1882 to the present and the future. Out on Pitch Publishing on August 15th preorder now on Amazon

 

Anyway, Poch is ahead of the game and has acted early to buy Janssen and Wanyama, good buys at good prices. Wanyama is ideal – DM is his natural position, sniping in front of the back four, solid in the box and able to knock it quickly to a teammate once he wins the ball. Trusts Poch, Poch trusts him. Can slot right in. Janssen, you should never look at youtube highlights so I looked at his youtube highlights, couldn’t resist it. Scores with both feet and his head, I particularly liked his ability to improvise. Balls at awkward heights, he’s falling over, whatever he gets it on target somehow. Like that a lot.

Cover at centreback will come from Carter-Vickers – Pochettino has said he’s not going to look outside the club. Dier can of course drop back there but he’s our best DM and I believe the best players should play in their best positions. Hope we do not get the injuries that leave us to rue that decision.

So I’d like some pace – N’koudou from France is the N’Jie upgrade in that respect – and another creative force in centre midfield. We could look for a hard-working up and down right midfielder – teams see a Spurs side with Lamela in front of Walker as defensively weak on that side. Not first choice but this is squad game.

That offers cover, flexibility and options. For instance, Wanyama could replace Dier to give Eric a much-needed rest but also they could play alongside each other when we need that extra protection, for instance away from home in the CL. Dembele is a DM as in deep-lying, instrumental in starting attacks from deep as well as winning the ball in the middle but he is less sure-footed in our box. Wanyama’s role is different. Also, maybe Dembele can play further forward, using his runs and unheard of ability to hang on to the ball to run at opposition defences. Or how about Lamela in a free role. I admire his effort but he’s not comfortable when defending, so there’s the option of freeing him up to make those quick 10-15 yard diagonal passes from central areas that have provided several assists. Release his talent.

We know N’Jie, Fazio, Pritchard and Bentaleb are on the way. Shame to lose Nabil. 18 months ago I thought he could become the best of all our young players, and I’m including Kane in that. Rangy stride, confident on the ball, always available and a great pass, what’s not to like? Rumours are that his attitude was poor last season but he was injured for an extended period. Pochettino gives players an extended chance if he likes them but if they don’t take it, they’re gone. Expectations are high at Spurs, rightly so, and if players don’t progress at the same rate as the group, they are shown the door, which seems to be Pritchard’s fate.

Of the rest, Tom Carroll seems vulnerable. Mobile, willing and another good passer, over time he doesn’t make enough of an impact compared with his team-mates. So too is Chadli, who has great skill on the ball and can take up good attacking positions but spends too much time waiting for other players to put in the work, not exactly the Poch way. Mason I would keep without question. Committed, very much part of the squad and playing for the most part out of position – he’s an attacking midfielder by trade – he was hampered by injury after a fine start to last season and I would not judge him on a couple of weak games at the tail end of last season when he was not match fit. Four competitions remember over the next months – we need squad men like him. I’ll leave you with the thought – why be in a hurry to sell anyone?

Another thing I’d like to see Spurs have is a Plan B, an alternative set-up to match the situation. N’koudou could be the pace to take the game to teams who are hanging back. And sides will hang back. Towards the end of the season less able opponents worked us out – everyone back and hit us on the break or at a set piece. We ran out of ideas – I’m thinking in particular of the crucial draw versus West Brom, two points dropped after being a goal up and momentum lost. Also, this style is the tactic du jour after Euro 2016. Tactics come in and out of fashion, and the lesson from the Euros was surely about how teamwork and a relative lack of attacking ambition is a potent leveller.

I wouldn’t mind seeing an out-of-character purchase of a man with experience at the highest level. Not so much Naybet or Nelsen, more Davids or Gallas, warriors with nouse and passion if not quite the bounce in their legs any more. Gallas the last time we were in the CL or versus Arsenal, if only he had come to the Lane a few years earlier….anyway, a bit of leadership never goes amiss and it’s not just the young men who have ambition.

Won’t happen of course, not how Pochettino sees things. I hope Levy gives him what he wants. Suspicion lingers that Levy has set a finite budget that includes sales from Pritchard, Bentaleb and possibly Chadli. If that suits MP, fine, but Levy has a history of not fully backing his managers. Surely Pochettino has done enough to inspire his chairman’s complete confidence.

6 thoughts on “Down To Business

  1. Great read as usual Alan.

    The most I want from Poch is as you say Alan is a plan B as that cost us dearly.
    Just hope we can improve on the lesser teams as we have done with the top teams and hopefully a stronger squad to cover for when needed.

    Can’t wait for Champions league at Wembley 🙌. Can’t believe we’ve sold over 50,000 with Spurs holding back tickets.

    Keep up the good work Alan 👍🏻

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  2. Isn’t this great? Think of all the seasons when we were just pleased to get rid of a terrible player only to say the same of the replacement two months in.
    Sad to see Pritchard go. Whether he would have made it, I’m not 100% sure but it’s a shame he didn’t get the chance; a bad injury pre-season pretty much destroyed last year and there’s too many people ahead now with Edwards and Winks also moving into the frame (although I suspect they may go out on loan).
    I wrote about Bentaleb for PlanetBenfica recently. as he has been linked with the them; can’t see it happening but I’d be pleased if he came to Lisbon.
    For me, I think Carroll, Mason and Chadli are the players on the edge with Chadli my favourite to depart given a good offer. Carroll has been a late developer and this season will be his last chance to shine. He’s a very tidy player, good as a sub in a winning position but not a game changer at the moment. Mason fills in well and deserves another season. However I suspect there’s a price in mind and an offer over that may see them leaving.

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  3. Great read Alan,really looking forward to the new season.
    I love our new signing. Wanyama gives us a big strong man in front of the defence. He has worked with the boss before and he loves him.
    The new striker is a great addition and all I think we need now is a quick attacking winger type.
    Go those mighty Spurs .

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  4. Hi Al – great to have you back.

    The new season must be heaving into view when the blogs start reappearing.

    Like you I have already offended a few people by starting a holiday late as it clashes with our first home game. Given the grief it caused we’d better win.

    I’m feeling confident this season. But my main aim is that we continue to play well, bring exciting young home-grown talent through and the bond between club and fans continues to tighten as it did last year.

    Top 3 finish, domestic trophy (or two) and get through the CL group stages. That’d be pretty decent all things considered.

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  5. It should be an exciting season no doubt.

    Congrats on the book Alan, and Martin, I look forward to having it in my sticky paws asap.

    I am putting my faith in Poch’s focus on the team and strategy as our rivals have bought some very fine players, so it’ll be tough to finish top 3. If we compete for a CL spot, or the title, and go deep in a cup and even the CL I’ll be pleased.

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  6. Thanks for the read.

    The main thing that I like these days is the recruitment of round pegs for round holes, pretty much the polar opposite of transfer policy for years. It would seem to me that we’ve two players for each position now and also good young players coming through, so we may be all set unless any fringe players are released and replaced.

    The amount of money being spent , or supposedly about to be spent, by other clubs seems bonkers and it pleases me no end those clubs are actually spending so much in trying to play catch up on Spurs. Or at least that’s how I spin it to my mates (and in one heartbreaking instance, offspring) that support Chelsea, City, Liverpool and United!

    While I am stirring a little on this point, I do truly believe a smoothly oiled machine where everyone fits in is far superior to a side comprised of crazy signings – Pogba looks to be a very good prospect , but £100million quid? Not for me Clive – and we were oh so close last year with such a young team. The Real Madrid side of around 2003-2005 proves the best players don’t make the best team and I’m confident we can win the league, or/and continue to improve with this relatively speaking, reasonably priced squad.

    Maybe I should substitute the word hopeful for confident, but you get my drift!

    Cheers

    DB

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